Mike Isaac

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For Social Video Start-Up Threadlife, Shorter Is Better

The Valley still hasn’t cracked the secret to social video apps.

And it isn’t for lack of trying. Since Facebook snapped up photo-sharing application Instagram for $750 million earlier this year, the next logical step was to move to video. Now there’s no dearth of apps that serve up user-generated videos captured through the smartphone.

Add Threadlife, the latest from Zappos founder Nick Swinmurn, to that pile. His app’s premise is much like a few others: Where video is concerned, shorter is better.

Threadlife’s stock in trade is the three-second video clip — dubbed a “stitch” in the whole sewing theme — a play on the idea that, as with photos, we’re apt to consume things quickly when they’re easy to view fast. That’s much along the lines of Viddy, a competing app that has been around for much longer, which holds 15-second time constraints on each clip.

Threadlife’s value proposition, however, is a bit different. Users can compile their short video “stitches” into themed “threads.” It’s a simple way to explicate a process — like restoring a project car you have in the garage, from rust bucket to street-ready — over a period of time, each clip adding another segment on top of the last. Or, for the sappy parent crowd, a way to curate the first days, weeks and months of a new addition to the family.

The company is keeping both the social and anti-social demographics in mind. Threads can be private or public, and all content within the app is shareable out to Facebook and Twitter. Smart, in that the app can keep private moments cordoned off, yet still capable of attaining user growth via social channels.

And yet the challenges are considerable. The social video app market is completely flooded. Acquisition exits may not be as easy to come by, as some apps have already been snapped up by giants like Twitter and Autodesk.

Facebook, too, doesn’t seem to be taking a side in the war among these types of start-ups, instead inviting all developers to integrate their social video apps into the Open Graph platform.

And despite never launching, social video application Vine subscribed to the short-form thesis; the app recorded in quick increments, only taking in video when you hold your finger down on the “record” button, and stitched those together afterward. Moreover, Twitter acquired Vine prelaunch, so Threadlife may have to compete with an app backed by one of the most popular short-form communication services in the world today.

Will Threadlife crack the social video app dilemma? I don’t know. But at the very least, it will make for a good story.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work